More cute than romantic, this love story should appeal to young teens.

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The Best of Both Worlds

A businessman’s psychotically jealous ex-girlfriend threatens a tender relationship.

A catastrophic accident, the result of a derailed train, leaves Jake McAllister, only a young boy, fatherless. He’s haunted by nightmares of the accident until a beautiful girl shows up in his dreams and offers him the comfort he desperately needs. Years later, Jake grows up to be a wealthy businessman but becomes caught in a loveless relationship with heartless gold digger Elizabeth Carstairs. For baffling reasons, Jake is incapable of seeing the full depth of her depravity but also seems dimly aware of his lack of romantic enthusiasm for her. Meanwhile, in a parallel plotline, Yvette Corvell suffers a deep loss when her husband dies in a tragic car accident. She uses the insurance settlement money to buy a ranch in Arizona and start a new life with her daughter, nearly 5-year-old Brandi. One day a tire bursts on Yvette’s car, and she is serendipitously rescued by Jake. He soon realizes that Yvette is a dead ringer for the girl who starred in his youthful dreams. Once she is convinced Jake’s womanizing days are behind him, the two begin a relationship and fall deeply in love. But Elizabeth, bankrupt from maniacally profligate spending, refuses to let Jake go without a fight. While some edge is given to the story by Elizabeth’s chilling amorality, this is otherwise so sentimental a story it seems written for very young adults. Debut author O’Donnell is irresistibly drawn to ostentatious displays of treacly emotion. Brandi wonders out loud to a dinner table of adults if her mother plans to find her a new father soon: “Since she got me a new fish, can she get me a new daddy?” The plot’s pace happily quickens when Elizabeth starts scheming to destroy Yvette. The author turns out to be extremely adept at inventively capturing Elizabeth’s fathomless wickedness. The prose can be a bit simplistic and is hampered by punctuation errors (for example, “Robert Johnson, head of the land acquisition department said”). The book is impossibly precious, which is simultaneously its principal virtue and central vice.

More cute than romantic, this love story should appeal to young teens.

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4917-9629-0

Page Count: 306

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: July 6, 2016

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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